Classical Conditioning and Ethics

Topics: Classical conditioning, Systematic desensitization, Fear Pages: 4 (1194 words) Published: February 18, 2012
ssical condir=tioningu03d1 Classical Conditioning and Ethics What can classical conditioning theory teach us about both developing and alleviating fears and phobias? Our textbook describes phobia as being "an excessive and intense fear, usually of a specific object or situation,..." (Terry, pg.77, 2009). The classical conditioning theory teaches us several different aspects about phobias; including how phobias develop and how to treat phobias, thus, alleviating fears altogether. Many behaviorists believe that phobias are an example of classical conditioning. According to Terry (2009), what is required to produce a phobia is a UCS that produces a strong emotional reaction, pain, for example, and a situation where that UCS can become associated with a neutral stimulus. For example, say you were bitten by a dog when you were a child: If that anxiety response carries over from that particular dog to all dogs then the result would be that you would become anxious every time you saw a dog. In short, you would have developed a phobia. "In humans, classical conditioning can account for such complex phenomena as an individual's emotional reaction to a particular song or perfume based on a past experience with which it is associated; the song or perfume is a CS that elicits a pleasant emotional response because it was associated with a friend in the past. Classical conditioning is also involved in many different types of fears or phobias, which can occur through generalization" (2004). Referring back to the first paragraph, the phobia developed from being bitten by a dog in your childhood follows you throughout your life and arises each time you encounter a dog similar to the one that bit you; this is called generalization. I am afraid of big dogs and this is because I was bitten by a Rottweiler when I was 12 years old. I remember the pain and fear I felt then and it causes me to become anxious, nervous, or uncomfortable (to say the least), when I am around other "big"...

References: American Psychological Association. (2010). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. Retrieved from
Classical Conditioning. (2004). In Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology. Retrieved from
Terry, S. (2009). Learning and Memory, Basic Principles, Processes, and Procedures, Fourth Edition.
Watson, John B. & Rayner, Rosalie. (1920). Conditioned emotional reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1-14. Retrieved from
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